Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jell-O and Confidence

What you ask, do Jell-O and confidence have to do with one another? Think about it. Both are tough to get a handle on. The wrong jab and both could come crumbling down like Antonio Daniels driving to the basket on Shaq. It's a very fragile thing, Jell-O. You stir and stir and stir, but when do you stop stirring? Do you make one big Jell-O? Do you make many little Jell-ites? As a coach, what do you do when a player takes a shot not in his arsenal? Posts up down low when his entire game is on the outside? Do you risk hurting their confidence by pulling them right away, do you let the mistake stir to see if they can make up for it? It's been said before (a lot by David Thorpe), but confidence is a big part of every players game. Without the confidence that they can make a shot, they never will. In order to win games, players need that confidence, and it is the job of coaches to take care of that. The players play, the coaches coach. Wow, that was deep. Anyway, this is where Jell-O comes in.

I admit, this post was inspired by Phil Jackson's book, The Last Season (funny, about that...). Even though I don't really even like Phil Jackson, I hate the Lakers and Kobe, it seems that he does sometimes seem to know what he's doing. And I like basketball books. Anyway, it was an ok read but I did take something from it. Most NBA fanatics know that Phil Jackson is more of a people coach than a basketball coach. Sure, he knows his X's and O's, but we all know the Zen Master is about centering the players on his team, not teaching them how to play basketball. So like I said, confidence is a big part of every players game. Every player has some degree of confidence, and that confidence is built up through successful outings on the floor. So yeah, back to the Jell-O...run with it, if you will.....

When you stir your favorite Jell-O flavor (red), how long do you stir? Do you even bother stirring? I mean, it's sugar and water, what's the stirring action for? Do you make multiple colors to see what comes out? These are important questions, and once you've answered them, and you boil, stir and pour your Jell-O into your bowls and stick in the fridge, you wait.

You pick an agile 7 footer in the 1st round of the draft. They are excited, you're excited. They report to camp on time and begin learning the offensive and defensive schemes right away. You see their confidence building in practice, as he jumps to block the layup of your veteran center. The season starts. You put your 1st round draft pick on the floor. And you wait. You've stirred and stirred and your confident that they can handle the pro game. Then your 1st round draft pick, your agile 7 footer, tries to dribble in from the 3 point line against a smaller opponent. Back in the fridge.

But think about it. You're a person. These players are people. Even if after playing big time college ball in front of thousands of people and on national TV you get pulled after 2 minutes in your first pro game, how fast are you going to recover from that. Lots of people says it depends on the player. I agree. Let's get back to the Jell-O, a Bill Cosby joke is waiting.

You sit at the kitchen table, you want your Jell-O to be ready. You check after only 10 minutes and give the Jell-O such a strong wiggle some of it splats of the floor in a pattern very similar to one seen on a Bill Cosby sweater. You clean it up and tell yourself a motivational story to pass the time. As you get around to the part about the little girl overcoming all adversity with just a rubberband and a crayon you realize your Jell-O is done. OH BOY OH BOY! Say it with me now...

J - E - L - L.............O!

So you give your rook a talking to, explaining that they are needed inside. Not dribbling, but getting high percentage buckets close to the rim. In time, the outside game will come. You put them back in to start the 2nd quarter and he starts it off with a jam off an alley-oop but then never really does anything else the rest of the game. He is invisible on offense and does not move his feet on defense. After the game, after you've splattered that Jell-O on the floor, you clean it up and give your player a motivational speech about how your mom made Thanksgiving dinner for 30 people in 30 minutes. The next game works out much better. This 1st rounder plays his game and plays it well.

Good story, right? You might still be a bit confused. You see how I can make comparisons between Jell-O and confidence, but what do they really have to do with one another. Well, basically, it comes down to the fact that Jell-O is a process, and it's fragile. You have to take your time, be patient. Once you get it cold, you don't want to still a spoon in and mash is all up, cause no one wants gross Jell-O like that.

Even though they are professional athletes, their confidence can be shattered, and you don't want to do that. There is a lot of talent in most players that make it to the League, it's up to the coaches to get the best out of them. The example story above could have been a veteran player as well. In which case, the Jell-O may have been a little stale.

To some extent, I don't think I realized how important confidence really was in the NBA game until I read the book. I didn't truly hate Kobe as much as I do now. His lack of confidence in his teammates now was present even then. I didn't truly appreciate what a great locker room presence, like Karl Malone on that Laker team, can have. Confidence is a fragile thing, you don't want to screw it all up and end up with Jell-O in your face.

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